A person changing the pins of beer kegs in a pub cellar

Greene King has become the first major cask brewer to launch cask pins in the UK, making cask ale more accessible than ever for free trade customers.

The smaller 4.5-gallon unit containers are set to hit the market in July following a seven-figure investment with cask pins being made available to all customers across Greene King’s seasonal cask beers range. The Limited Edition Fresh Cask Releases programme features a rolling portfolio of cask styles and flavours tailored to specific points in the year. The first seasonal products to be made available in cask pin format will be the Ale Fresco and New Tricks limited edition ales.

What’s more, Greene King and Belhaven customers will be offered products in cask pins as well as firkins, on a fixed price basis for the whole availability period of the seasonal range, allowing them to plan ahead and stock the ales in confidence.

Greene King believes that the introduction of pins containing 36 pints per unit (half the size of the industry standard 9g container) will reinvigorate the sector by helping licensees deliver a range of fantastic cask-fresh beer to customers every time, whilst at the same time minimising wastage.


Stock with confidence

The launch of pins dovetails neatly with the launch last year of Greene King’s Cask Iron Guarantee which entitles all free trade customers to a full refund for unbroached firkins and a credit for any remaining volume on broached firkins that that go out of date ahead of being sold through.

With the effects of the pandemic still echoing and the cost-of-living crisis leading consumers to drink out less frequently, these investments will provide customers with the opportunity and the confidence to expand the range of cask ales on their bar which will help encourage more people to try cask ale and ultimately broaden its appeal.

The Fresh Cask Releases consists of a combination of returning favourites, key calendar creations, collaborations and new and exciting ales, inspired by legendary stories of the people and places associated with beer.

With the introduction of pins, customers will have the ability to manage a lower throughput at quieter times of the week, meaning less waste or risk of serving beer past its best quality. During busier times, cask pins offer the customer the opportunity to provide a seasonal cask ale, providing a wider choice on the bar.

CGA BrandTrack data shows that cask drinkers are happy to pay more for a great-quality pint and Greene King believes the launch of pins is another step in positioning cask ale as the premium product it should be on the bar.


Investing in cask

John Malone, Head of Brewery Engagement at Greene King said: “The launch of pins within our business is one of many ways we are investing in the cask beer sector and in the industry. We have addressed the challenges serving this unique product can bring, and we believe the introduction of pins will help our customers serve our fabulous beers in perfect condition every time, whilst minimising wastage and maximising profits.

“Introducing pins will also provide our customers with the opportunity to expand their range and offer seasonal ales that provide a wider choice of styles and flavours to their guests. Cask ale is at the heart of a great pub, driving footfall and guest loyalty. We aim to support our customers in serving the best range of perfect quality beers for their bar.”

Greene King is passionate about the future of cask and, as part of many other support tools for customers, offers full cellar training and guidance for pubs to ensure they have all the knowledge and support to sell quality cask beer.


Using Pins vs Firkins

There are three reasons to stock pins

1        to broaden your range of cask ales

2        to add cask ale to your line up

3        to offer cask ale during quieter times during the week


Pins are not suitable for all customers and our 9 gallon firkins may be a better and more cost efficient option for your venue.

Our cask iron guarantee programme offers customers who have signed up to the programme peace of mind as they could recover costs of any unsold beer from a 9 Gallon Firkin.

For more information speak to your sales representative, full details available on our website



What are pins?

Pins are smaller containers for cask conditioned ale. Containing 4.5 gallons of ale, they are half the size of a traditional 9 gallon firkin. This means you only need to sell 12 pints a day to maintain quality (rather than 24 when using firkins), which is vital for keeping your ale drinkers happy.


Why and when should you use pins?

There are three main reasons for stocking pins:

1          To broaden your range of ales.

2          To add cask to your line up.

3          To offer cask ale during quieter times of the week.


Are pins always a better option?

Not necessarily. If you sell a full firkin every three days you do not need to switch to pins. Clearly, however, you could still take advantage of pins to add more choice to your range. And don’t forget Greene King’s Cask Iron Guarantee – Customers who have signed up can recover costs of any unsold beer from a 9g firkin.


How do you care for pins? The way to prepare cask ale does not change when using pins. Depending on how you store your cask ale, you may need to tweak your cellar set up.

1          Horizontal stillage

If you use horizontal wooden stillage you may need to shorten the gap to fit the smaller size.

If your existing wooden stillages are too wide to support a pin-sized container, (yellow arrow), this distance may need to be narrowed by attaching wooden inserts to the stillage to narrow this gap (green arrow).

2          Vertical extraction

The simplest way to store and serve through pins is using vertical extraction – using a chock to ensure the cask is tilted ½” to 1” on stillaging. (see image, left). This should provide the required stability to stop premature cloudy beer being dispensed. Alternatively, using a floating widget will enable an easy, quality serve.


What does Greene King recommend?

Greene King recommends an auto tilt set up. This is a simple way to maintain quality of serve. It’s important to tilt ale in the correct way as incorrect tilting results in increased wastage:

Too much tilt and the sediment can block the tap.

Too little tilt and the beer will be left below the level of the tap.

Even if you already have an auto tilt set up you may need to invest in a new rack in to fit the smaller container size – these are readily available and fairly inexpensive. Ensure you purchase the ‘pinkin’ size for pins.

Greene King also offers the following tips for tilting:

1          Ideally tilt when the cask is at least two-thirds full, not less than half.

2          Tilt at the end of the trading session.

3          If tilting manually, it is best carried out by two people. Tilt by raising the back higher than front by three to four inches, supported by a scotch.


How do you prepare cask for sale?

It’s important to prepare cask ale before selling. It is after all, a live brew that needs time to develop a full flavour and aroma, just like wine, whisky and other spirits. The good news with cask is that this time is much less – so your customers get to enjoy a great pint of fresh cask within four days!

It takes around three days for ale to fully ferment, clarify and develop its full flavour and aroma – but it’s worth the wait.


Where can I get help if I need it?

Cellar Doctor

Cellar Doctor is here to help you diagnose and troubleshoot any problems you may be having. Visit beer-genius.co.uk/cellar-doctor for more information.

Beer Genius

Beer Genius is a great source of brand information, online training videos, free e-learning courses and problem-solving tools to enable anyone working with beer to learn the essentials required to serve the perfect pint.

Visit beer-genius.co.uk for more information